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Why Stress Makes Acne Worse (And What to Do About It)

Calling 2020 an overwhelming year is an understatement.

And during this mess of a year, your high stress levels have most likely triggered your skin to look like a mess too.

Girl, you’re not alone.

My client Amanda was dealing with a lot of stress this year as well. Between finishing her undergrad online, looking for work and not being able to see her close family who live internationally …it’s been tough for her.

Although there were a number of factors causing her to breakout, her stress levels were definitely a major trigger.

The Stress-Acne Connection

As your stress levels rise, your adrenal glands overproduce hormones like cortisol, androgen and DHEA. This prompts your oil glands to make more sebum, which clogs pores and then results in additional acne. Stress also increases blood flow and expands your blood vessels, causing your skin to look more inflamed.

On top of all of that, stress leads to a higher demand for the very nutrients that may keep acne in check.

When you are stressed the eff out, nutrients in your body are used up more quickly (especially the B vitamins). So it’s important to have a nutrient dense diet to ensure you’re refilling the tank. Adding in tailored supplements for your body is important to avoid any depletions, too.

Chronic stress can also lower levels of magnesium. But we need this important mineral to prevent acne because it can reduce the amount of cortisol in your blood, inflammation and the release of sebum-stimulating substance P.

Other anti-acne minerals that are often depleted while under stress are calcium, selenium and zinc.

To further the acne-triggering impacts of stress, it also increases emotional eating. When we’re stressed, we tend to binge on processed and sugary foods high in refined carbohydrates. These inflammatory foods are one of the big culprits of chronic acne.

3 Ways to Manage Stress Better

To help fight off the stress acne for my client Amanda, we of course set her up on an anti-inflammatory diet and tailored supplements to her body. But this all means nothing if we didn’t work on her mind-skin connection.

I encouraged Amanda to practice gratitude, yoga and mantras. Here are some more tips:


If you’ve never meditated before, don’t worry, it’s not as intimidating as you may think. Meditation is simply the process of training your mind to focus and redirect your thoughts. It helps to reduce stress and anxiety while promoting positivity.

Many meditation apps like Calm, Headspace, Insight Timer, or The Tapping Solution make meditating easy. YouTube also has endless meditations for every possible topic or stressor.


Adaptogens are herbs, roots and mushrooms that help the body adapt to daily stressors better. Some examples are maca, ashwagandha, rhodiola, schizandra, holy basil, and medical mushrooms like maitake and cordyceps. You can find adaptogens in powdered form or in herbal teas.


Lack of sleep causes stress on the body, which as you know by now, increases cortisol and more sebum and you guessed it, more breakouts. Too little sleep also decreases your moisture levels which lead to acne, dryness and redness. 

Ideally, most adults need seven to nine hours of sleep a night. Unfortunately, people are getting less sleep now more than ever.

If you want to wake up every day feeling well-rested, try these:

  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day (ideally in bed by 10 pm).
  • Exercise 20 to 30 minutes a day to burn excess energy.
  • Avoid caffeine late in the day.
  • Don’t drink alcohol within 90 minutes of going to bed.
  • Create a bedtime routine like reading or having a bath in dim lighting.
  • Avoid stimuli from television, phones, and other electronic devices for at least an hour before bed.
  • Consider blue light glasses during the day to reduce blue light exposure.
  • Have a few cups of a night time herbal tea containing valerian root.
  • Diffuse or topically apply relaxing essential oils like doTERRA’s lavender, copaiba, vetiver, Serenity and/or Balance

We included these stress reduction practices as part of Amanda’s protocol in The Clear Skin Solution. She started to feel more optimistic, thankful and relaxed throughout her day. But most importantly, to Amanda, her skin dramatically cleared up within a few months and she finally felt happy again when she looked at her skin in the mirror.

If you want to feel the same way as Amanda, try your best to incorporate a few of these stress reduction practices. And make sure to join my free clear skin community on Facebook to get daily tips, too.

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